Italian Air Force F-35B makes its first public appearance

F35 Rivolto Frecce Tricolori 60
Italian Air Force F-35B hovers in front of the crowd at the Rivolto Air Show 2021, northern Italy.

After being engaged in several military exercises and tests, the first Italian Air Force F-35B Lightning II made its civilian airshow debut on September 18 in Rivolto, northern Italy. The type, together with the A/CTOL variant, is ready to replace the Italian military workhorses Tornado and AMX.

The fifth-gen fighter was one of the most anticipated performers by aviation enthusiasts in Rivolto. With its fascinating configuration change, swivel engine and open doors, the F-35B is something never seen before. The aircraft is made unique by the lift system that allows it to take off on a short runway and land vertically while defying the laws of gravity.

As the newest aircraft to join the Italian Air Force arsenal, the F-35B displayed its 39,000 pound-thrust while it hovered over the flight line.

Towards the end of the flight program, the fighter rolled out of the shelter and showed the crowd its full power with a short take-off. It then returned to the flight line twenty minutes later, after a tactical demo by other assets, to hover for a few seconds in front of an enthusiastic audience.

Although the ITAF has previously shown the plane to some media, this was its first appearance in front of thousands of people.

The F-35B marks the first ever entry of a STOVL aircraft into the ITAF fleet. The type was selected by the service to strengthen its "expeditionary" capability. Thanks to the F-35B, the ITAF will be able to quickly deploy an adequate number of forces even in difficult-to-reach territories or closer to the area of ​​operations. Compared to the conventional take-off variant (F-35A), the F-35B is capable of operating from very short runways, makeshift airfields or stretches of highway.

The aircraft shown in Rivolto is the first and currently the only F-35 STOVL in the ITAF fleet. It was taken over in February 2020 and assigned to the 32nd Wing/Amendola AFB. The ITAF is expected to receive a total of 15 F-35Bs (in addition to 60 F-35As).

F35 Rivolto Frecce Tricolori 60

F35 Rivolto Frecce Tricolori 60

F35 Rivolto Frecce Tricolori 60

F35 Rivolto Frecce Tricolori 60

F35 Rivolto Frecce Tricolori 60

F35 Rivolto Frecce Tricolori 60

F35 Rivolto Frecce Tricolori 60

F35 Rivolto Frecce Tricolori 60

Text and Pics: Matteo Sanzani

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